When I was about seven or eight, I asked my guardian if stabbing myself with a kitchen knife would kill me instantly, or if it would hurt first.
If the answer to that question had been the former, I would have gone through with it. I remember being disappointed when I learned that it would cause so much pain.
As a severely suicidal elementary-school-aged child, one of the things that kept me alive through Creepy Evangelical Sunday School (as it shall remain named until we remember enough that shouting the details from the rooftops will have any effect) was this thought: “I have to grow up and get out of here so I can stop this from happening to anybody ever again.”
I am old enough now to realize that this is impossible.
Even if everybody involved in my specific story was arrested, there are countless more. There are countless children being abused, and it is impossible now to delete every trace of some of the information being spread on how to abuse kids. (Yes, that is a thing. I have, unfortunately, sources: https://childrescuecoalition.org/educations/abuse-by-the-book-pedophiles-share-grooming-manuals-and-learn-to-prey-on-children/ [I also happened to see one of these things as a small child, as the person abusing me at that moment was not aware that I already knew how to read, much less read beyond my age level. And then I had a really fucked-up nightmare about it. But such is not the subject of today’s post.])
So what do we do then?
Progress functions as a collective. Every story of every survivor contributes. If we can’t eliminate the materials, we need to make them ineffective. If younger generations are spending more and more time consuming media, let’s put in that media the keys to break out of even the most severe gaslighting.
I have seen people who speak the language I know all too well, spilling their guts in art. I’m not naming anything specific – God forbid that I be responsible for a “parent” banning such resources. But I know it’s out there. It’s too much to be a coincidence. So if you’ve seen it too, you are not alone.
You don’t have to keep gaslighting yourself for fear of your alters tearing your mind apart. You are brilliant. You are cunning. You can trust yourself. If you piece things together wrong initially, you will remember more later and can correct it. It is okay. And it is okay to take it slow. When I found pictures of the place I lived or visited at three, I had to pace myself. Even positive memories can be overwhelming if they flood in all at once.
A big part of me (haha, yes, I know) wants to give up. I won’t lie about that. I feel like my stories are pretty worthless most of the time. But we all feel like that, don’t we? If you’re treated like your soul is worthless, you’re going to have a hard time expressing it with any confidence.
“This doesn’t look like me.”
“This doesn’t sound like me.”
“I know I was brighter. Stronger. Braver. More.”
I can’t write stories and poetry the way I did when I was a teenager. My style has sophisticated and improved. My heart has died. I can tell stories in a prettier voice with a hollow ring. I don’t remember my true emotions; I’m still scouring the rust. It doesn’t feel particularly useful.
But if I inspire just one person to keep going, to believe their own light, to tell their own story too, it will have been worth it.
I apologize for these faded papers, all out of order, with smudged spots and holes. They used to sing dark folktales from a land too horrifying to be real, except that it was. Maybe one day they will again.